Sheriff Supports Armed Personnel to Supplement Santa Rosa Schools Protection

Posted on June 23, 2021 by Romi White

Despite assertions otherwise by a Santa Rosa School District official, Sheriff Bob Johnson says he supports implementing a state program to allow highly trained armed personnel in local schools. County commissioners on Tuesday also voiced support for it.

The issue arose during the June 22 county commission meeting when the board was asked to fund a $544,000 allocation toward the school resource officer program.

District 3 Commissioner James Calkins told fellow board members he wanted to include a stipulation that the school district implement the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools’ Guardian Program in order to receive the funding.

The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was established in 2018 through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In its initial report, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission found that having Guardians in schools is the best way to ensure highly trained personnel are in place to respond immediately in the event of a school shooting, per FDOE.

Santa Rosa District Schools Safety Director Daniel Hahn told commissioners that about 50% of Florida’s 67 counties have implemented the Guardian Program; however, according to FDOE, that is inaccurate. Per FDOE, nearly 2/3 of Florida’s counties utilize it.

Hahn told commissioners the school district was going to implement the program at one time. “Then the sheriff asked us not to, so we’re not,” Hahn said. “We are in full concurrence and in support of the sheriff’s office decision to not implement it at this time.”

But Santa Rosa County Bob Johnson, who was not present at the meeting, told South Santa Rosa News that he does support implementing the program in Santa Rosa schools.

Assistant Chief Deputy Shane Tucker addressed the matter shortly after Hahn spoke, clarifying that the Sheriff’s Office does support utilizing the Guardian Program to supplement, but not replace, School Resource Officers. “Where we got off the rails is the initial part of this discussion (years ago) seemed to lead to removing and using Guardians instead of SROs.” 

Gulf Coast Gun Owner Chris Smith during Tuesday’s meeting offered to provide two firearms to each school for staff willing to complete the intensive 144-hour training to participate. Smith pointed out sworn law enforcement officers only receive 80 hours of firearms training as part of their certification.

Ultimately the board voted to approve the school resource officer funding request without the stipulation that the district add the Guardian Program, although each commissioners who was present voiced support for it. Commissioner Dave Piech was absent.

Sheriff Johnson said the school board makes the call on whether or not to pursue using the Guardian Program. “If we add them on a strict, case-by-case basis in addition to the (school resource officers), I’m fine with it,” he said.


According to FDOE, Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian. Guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings, and successfully complete a minimum of 144 hours of training.

The 2019 Legislature expanded the Guardian program to include Class D and G licensed security guards as well as certain school district or charter school employees who volunteer to participate in the program.

State funds are granted to participating Sheriff’s Offices to cover the screening and training costs for each Guardian. Also, Guardians receive a one-time stipend of $500 for serving in the program.